CREDITS: Written by Paul Dini and Robert Goodman; directed by Atsuko Tanaka (after some work at the WB, he would become a key animator at Studio Ghibli).
REVIEW: Starting with some motorcycle stunts and ending on some upsetting animation of a young girl being absorbed into Clayface, this Robin-centric episode owes something, I think, to Akira. Correspondingly, Annie, the girl Robin wants to help, seems to spring right out of anime, and the level of animation is very high, especially in the body-warping finale. And this IS very much Robin's story. It's not just about saving a girl he's become infatuated with, it becomes more personal than that. Before he knows what's really going on, Annie is the child of a criminal, just as he is. He wants her to have the opportunities he's had. Batman is wrong to think the "girl" is a distraction, just Gordon is wrong to think his daughter's "wildness" was a boy-crazy teenage thing.
I came into this episode remembering the truth about Annie, which did make the experience slightly more tedious, but I do think the audience is probably only one step ahead of Batman (mud to analyze? please) or maybe two if they recognized Ron Perlman's voice and made the connection. If someone does make the Clayface connection, they won't necessarily divine the truth about Annie, but should. Thankfully, the finale is so disturbing and well animated, it hardly matters if you calculated the formula's result.
Just as Robin needs to be his own person under Batman - to the point where I was starting to think this story was meant for Dick - Annie comes to question whether she is a real person. Robin thinks so and for him, quite poignantly, her reabsorption into Clayface is murder. A dark ending, and so, one of the best.
IN THE COMICS: The opening sequence evokes how Tim Drake's first enemies were gang members. At the train station, a voice on the P.A. system asks for Robert Haney, a reference to Bob Haney, writer of many Batman and via the Teen Titans, Robin stories. The movie premiere we see is for "Kane", a reference to both Citizen Kane and Batman creator Bob Kane.
SOUNDS LIKE: Annie is played by Francesca Marie Smith (Recess, Hey Arnold!).
REWATCHABILITY: Medium-High - If this were Watchability, it might hit High, but on second watch, it's a bit slow to let the heroes realize what you already know is true.